In tropical paradise, U.S. drones meant revenue

September 22, 2011

U.S. Navy Commander Greg Hand speaks to participants during a media day event in Victoria, Seychelles, in 2009. An MQ-9 Reaper can be seen in background. (Maj. Eric Hillard — U.S. Africa Command)

Drones can clearly track down terrorists. But they can apparently boost an economy, too.

The U.S. military’s deployment of MQ-9 Reaper drones to the Seychelles, a tropical paradise in the Indian Ocean, generated $3.1 million in revenue for local businesses during their first four months of operations, according to an unclassified U.S. diplomatic cable buried in the database of State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks.

As the subject line of the 2010 cable touted: “U.S. Military Presence Benefits Seychelles Economy.


When they weren’t flying the Reapers, the drone crew spent $937,260 on “Food/Liberty,” or about $11,400 per person over a four-month period ending in December 2009 (the Reapers arrived in late September).

Expenses also included $51,760 for vehicle rentals, $70,777 for aircraft fuel and $598,363 for the catchall category of “facilities/services.”

All told, “a significant sum in a country as small as Seychelles,” the cable noted.

“The Seychellois have already taken notice of the economic benefits,” the cable continued. “Local shop owners and restaurateurs have commented that the U.S. military is bringing a steady income into hotels, restaurants, and shops: a direct influence of the American presence.” 

Accommodations accounted for a particularly large chunk of change. The drone crew accumulated a tab of $1,457,784, which comes to roughly $150 per night per person over four months.

Not bad for a tropical dreamland. The Four Seasons Resort nearby charges more than $500 a day.

Craig Whitlock covers the Pentagon and national security. He has reported for The Washington Post since 1998.
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